ESL Themes and Holidays Archives

Ideas for Halloween ESL Party Planning – Halloween activities you can do with your ESL class

  • Pumpkin carving contest: Make teams of students to carve a nice jack-o-lantern, the teachers can be the judges
  • Halloween Costume Ideas: Your students can get creative and make costumes to wear for you ESL class Halloween Party
  • Halloween costume parade and contest: Make sure yo show all the other students and teachers yuor creative efforts in designing a costume with a parade and contest voted on by ESL students and teachers who has the best costume
  • Bobbing for apples: This is a fun activity we do at Halloween. You can use your hands and you have to get an apple from the water barrel with your mouth. These days it is not as popular of an activity because people are worried about germs, etc. So do so at your own, risk and it is a good idea to exclude anyone who is sick to not spread germs.
  • Haunted House: turn your ESL classroom into a haunted house tour with different spooky stations and slimy guts to touch and guess what it is… have fun!
  • Trick or Treating: you can have a class or school trick or treating event. Each class, or small group can make treats (such as candy apples, cookies, etc.), and give them to the other students if they say the famous Halloween words. (or if treats are limited, perhaps a prize for best costumes).
  • Listen to Haunted Music at the party
  • tell Ghost Stories
  • Watch a Halloween movie (be sure to be age sensitive) don’t scare little kids, and don’t scare adults either, they wont give your class / school good reviews. Keep it fun and use common sense.
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Halloween Words / Halloween Vocabulary

Halloween Words – Vocabulary 

This is a list of common words used at Halloween. ESL teachers and students can use this as a warm up or backdrop for further ESL lessons and activities about the Halloween theme, one of the most enjoyable ESL themes to teach.

Halloween: Halloween day is every year on October 31 st. On Halloween day children go trick-or-treating(see below).

Jack O Lantern: This is the most significant / important Halloween symbol. This is a pumpkin which has been carved and cleaned. The most common way is to have a face on it, like in the picture. These days there are all kinds of different designs which people make.

Trick-or-treat / trick or treating: This is when children dress up in Halloween costumes and go to their neighbours houses and say – trick-or treat. Then the people will come from the house and give the children candy. Kids love trick-or-treating because they get lots of free candy (treats) every Halloween.

Goblin: This is a generic name for a weird, half monster creature. Sometimes they are short, sometimes like a human in size. They are always ugly and sometimes have some kind of black magic power. Just about any weird monster costume you make can be called a goblin, if it doesn’t have any other names.

Witch: Witches are Halloween symbols as well, they are scary old ladies with green faces, a mole on their nose and a loud and scary laugh. Ahhhhh, haaaaa, ha ha ha ha ha hhaaaaaa! They fly around at night on their broom stick and wear a black cape and pointy black hat.

Spell: witches cast (make) spells, which are black or bad magic formulas they use to harm people. For example, a witch can cast a spell to turn a handsome prince into a frog until a beautiful princess frees him.

Magic Potion: this is what someone makes in order to drink it to give them magic powers. A witch or a magic wizard will make a potion for good or bad reasons. For example they can make a potion to make them strong or invisible or to sleep for a hundred years.

Haunted house: a haunted house is an old and dark house, usually on top of a hill and it is full of ghosts.

Halloween costume: this is what children wear when they go trick or treating. Many common, or traditional costumes include vampires, witches, ghosts, werewolves, zombies. However, it is also common to see famous superheroes and celebrities as costumes such as batman, superman, etc. costumes can be store bought or home made.

  

Zombie: this is mythical a dead body which walks around at night looking for brains of humans to eat. They are stupid and scary creatures and they walk with their hands and arms out in front of them. In Michael Jackson’s Thriller music video, there were lots of zombies.

Black Cat: A black cat is a Halloween symbol. Usually we see black cats with witches. There is a saying that you don’t want to cross the path of a black cat because it will bring you bad luck.

Easter Crafts for ESL Class – Easter Activities

Easter Bunny Card

The Easter bunny is one of the major symbols of Easter along with Easter eggs and Easter chicks. Like Christmas’ Santa Clause, the Easter bunny brings Easter eggs and gifts to children on the eve of the Easter holiday. When Easter approaches, fun activities include participating in Easter egg hunts and making Easter crafts that feature either Easter eggs or the Easter bunny to give to someone special or as displays for the occasion.

For the Easter bunny, Easter is a time for giving Easter eggs and other presents. Kids will enjoy creating something fun and at the same time giving something worthwhile for the Easter holiday. Among the many Easter crafts available, the best and most expressive would be an Easter bunny card.

There are many ways to make an Easter bunny card. The card to be made here would be as fluffy as a real Easter bunny. The materials needed are:

Blank card stock or a rectangular piece of soft light-colored cardboard

Blue, red or black colored marker (make sure it is kid-safe, non-toxic)

Glue (make sure it is kid-safe, non-toxic)

Cotton balls

Pair of wiggly eyes

Some black yarn

Red cardboard

 

To make the Easter bunny card, first fold the card stock or cardboard in two to make a fold-out card. Then smear the front page with glue and spread the cotton balls on the page until it is fully covered with cotton. Cut out some long rabbit ear shapes with some spare cardboard. Stick the ‘ears’ a little beneath the first page. Cover the ears with some cotton as well. Stick the wiggly eyes on the front page. Cut a small red circle for the nose. Cut six two-inch pieces of black yarn for whiskers and stick them on either side of the nose. Cut out little hearts and egg shapes from the red cardboard and stick them with glue inside the card. Write a well-meaning Easter holiday message in English like ‘Happy Easter’.

Easter Activities – Easter Word Search

easter vocabulary word-search

April Fool’s Day

April Fools DayPre-Reading Task

Discuss these questions in groups

  • Have you heard of April Fool’s Day?
  • What is a fool?
  • What do you think the day is about?

Pre-Reading Vocabulary

Match each word or phrase to the correct definition. There is a choice of two for each word.

Hoax
  • An idea or activity tintended to deceive
  • An idea or activity intended to entertain
Non-official
  • No celebrated
  • Not recognized by an authority
Practical joke
  • A physical joke
  • A joke played on a person to laugh at them
Misunderstand
  • Confuse
  • Mistake
Edict
  • A law
  • A piece of text
Mass media
  • Media like newspapers and TV that reach many people
  • Media like newspapers and TV that are big corporations
Unsuspecting
  • Someone doesn’t realize what is happening
  • Someone doesn’t care what is happening

April Fools’ Day, celebrated every 1 st of April is a non-official but widely popular holiday celebrated in many countries where people can play friendly practical jokes on one another or set up elaborate tricks and hoaxes. April Fools’ Day is widely celebrated in Canada, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom and most of Europe.

The first recorded mention of April Fools’ Day can be found in the 1392 classic The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer when readers misunderstood his line ‘thirty-two days after March’ which meant may 2 and interpreted it as ‘March 32’ or April 1. The most popular origin of the holiday goes back to the middle ages when New Year’s Day was celebrated on April 1. The Edict of Roussillon changed the New Year’s Day celebration to January 1 but many still associated April 1 with the New Year. Those who complied with the edict considered those who celebrated on April as April fools.

The day is lightheartedly celebrated by everyone and victims of practical jokes would laugh when they realize the date. Practical jokes, tricks and hoaxes are done by individuals, groups and even mass media. Fake, outlandish but sometimes convincing stories would be newscast on TV and published by newspapers and websites to an unsuspecting public who are often amused when they realize the date.

Comprehension Check

Decide if the statements are true or false.

  • April Fool’s Day arose from a mistake in literature.
  • Is a holiday celebrated throughout the world.
  • The public always enjoy the fake news reports on this day.
  • April Fool’s Day was originally New Year’s Day.

Free Discussion

Tell your partner about a time when someone played a trick on you or you played a trick on someone else.

Phrasal Verbs

‘set up elaborate tricks and hoaxes’

Look at the phrase taken from the text above. It contains a phrasal verb, where is it?

Phrasal Verbs with ‘set’

Match the phrasal verb with the definition.

Set offSet upSet downSet upon To trap someone either in a joke or a crimeTo start to attackTo identify rules or place something on a surface (common in the US)To begin a journey

Fill in the gaps with the correct phrasal verb.

  • The gang _______ him in the alleyway
  • We _____ town before lunch.
  • Although Franco Varini was in prison for murder, he always claimed he had been ______.
  • I _____ the television on the table because it was so heavy.

Formal and Informal Language

What makes a text a formal or informal? Complete the table below.

Formal Informal
Use of the passive Regular use of phrasal verbs

Text Focus

Look at the text above, is it formal or informal? Use the table above to help you and underline examples of what makes the text formal or informal.

Look at the type of texts below and decide whether they should be written formally informally.

  • A letter to your parents
  • A letter of complaint to a shop or service
  • A cover letter for a job
  • An article for a student newspaper
  • An email to your friend

Writing: A Letter of Complaint

Write a letter of complaint to the principal of your school about an April Fool’s trick that caused damage in the school.

Research

Google Orson Welles and the War of the Worlds.

What is this?

How is it connected with this lesson?

What made it such a successful hoax?

 

The Origins of Halloween (Advanced reading)

It was a dark night at the end of the summer, hundreds of years ago, when our Celtic ancestors celebrated the autumn Sabbath known as Samhain (pronounced “Sow-In”) – the Witches New Year.

In those days, autumn was a time for harvesting the last of the crops, feasting and celebrating the end of the year. This was well before our modern form of calendar was created, and many people simply considered autumn to be the end of the year, as the season quickly changes into winter – the time of “great death“. Winter was the time when snow blanketed the ground, chilling crops, animals and people to the bone. No sustainable crops were able to be grown in winter, so the fall harvest season was especially important. The bounty that came in at the end of the year was a forecast of how well a family would do over the winter. If the crops were plentiful, they would likely have an easier time over the cold months. If the crops were meager due to fire, flood or not enough nutrients in the soil, then the winter would be hard.

Back then, the rumor was, that during the end of the year, when the earth traveled from the busy autumn season into the dead of winter, that the etheric veil between our world and the otherworld’s, would be lifted in order to make the transition possible. During this transition, it was believed that entities and spirits that would not normally be able to co-exist on this wave-length with us, could cross over and create all sorts of mischief. Now, before the christian era took over, this time of year was a time of celebration. The clans and tribes of western Europe – who began the traditions followed by most Canadian, American and European cultures to this day – thought of the transition as a powerful time to make connections with higher deities, and to use various forms of magic to safe guard them over the winter. This was because most of the dogmas of that time, worshipped the moon. During the autumn season, the largest and most colorful full moon, the Harvest Moon, can be seen taking over the night sky. It was because the harvest moon appears on different days of the year, that the Halloween of that era, was not on any specific day. It came when the crops were all picked, and the moon was full in the fall.

Now, as the cultural times began to change, and Abrahamic religions had seriously spread across western Europe, the silly faeries, malevolent gnomes, strange but harmless ghosts and funny little brownies that were once an aid to farmers and hunters – soon became dangerous little demons, frightening specters and devious spirits that could harm crops, steal children and scare the skin color out of the most courageous person. It was the fear of even stranger and scarier beings coming through the weakened veil in the fall, which inspired the tradition of wearing masks and dawning costumes. It was thought, at the time, that by dressing up as ghoulish goblins, creepy creatures, strange animals, fairies and other not-human beings, that we could trick the dangerous spirits into believing they were not in our realm. It was this theory that had adults and children wearing masks and costumes, if they were planning any ventures outside of their homes on all hallows eve.

Over time our cultures evolved and spread across the earth, taking their traditions with them. It was the Irish, Scottish and Welsh who had brought the most influence to Canada and America, when it comes to holidays like Halloween. Some of those customs evolved into the traditions we know today.

Trick or Treating used to be a druidic custom when it first began. Because of the belief that malevolent spirits would try to play tricks on you when the veil between the worlds is so thin (tricks that could result in harsh winters and destroyed harvests), they gave treats to the druids, asking them to bless their homes and appease the spirits so they would leave them alone. Now, the treats of that age were certainly not the over-processed sugar filled sweets that we see today. They were eggs, butter, apples, cheese, breadcake, money and barnbrack (a special fruitcake). These were seen as items that the wayward spirits and strange other beings, would eat or use and be sated enough to leave the people alone. As time went on, and the druids were pushed out of society, a new but similar tradition took hold, where beggars would go around to the people’s doors and receive “soul cakes” in exchange for their prayers. The more cakes the beggars got, the more prayers they sent out for the passed loved ones of the folks who handed out the bread cakes. It was believed that the more prayers that were said for a recently dead loved one, the more likely they were to make a safe passage into their next life.

Bobbing for Apples, Riding Broomsticks, Big Bonfires and Halloween Masquerade were all traditions carried over from Celtic times. Interestingly enough, the use of Pumpkins was one of the largest differences between the original Celtic traditions and the newer Canadian and American traditions. In Ireland, children used to carve jack-o-lanterns out of potatoes and turnips, as a way of remembering the dead. They didn’t have Pumpkins, as it is primarily a fruit that grows here in North America. Sometime after pumpkins were discovered by a French explorer, they began to replace potatoes in the North American version of Halloween. Now we can clearly see them decorating our communities in the forms of lit up jack-o-lanterns, candy buckets and cute little baby costumes.

All in all, Halloween is a tradition that has stood the test of the ages. It has changed and changed again, and will continue to do so, as we do, yet forever hold on to its origins. As we know it today, it is still a time for remembrance and winter preparations, though for the most part, it’s just fun.

References:

Samhain – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samhain

 

Exercise:

– list all the phrases and words that are new to you.  Find the meanings and make two additional sentences using the pattern or word.

Comprehension:

  1. In your own words, summarize the origin of trick or treating.
  2. Why do you think Sowin marked the ‘witch’s new year’?
  3. Why do we carve jack-o-lanterns now and why do we use pumpkins?

The Curious History of Canadian Thanksgiving Customs

A country’s culture and customs are much like a living organism in that they are ever changing, morphing and evolving.  Thanksgiving in Canada is no exception.  The holiday we now know as Thanksgiving has a very rich, interesting and at times, confusing history. As we now know it, Thanksgiving is held every year on the second Monday in October.  Thanksgiving is Canada and America’s harvest festival, though it didn’t always start out that way.

Canada’s First Nations people traditionally celebrated the bounty of their fall harvests and future fertility in the spring, as many other populations also did throughout history. With this already in place at the time the early European settlers came crashing onto the rock we now know as the Province of Newfoundland, the Thanksgiving holiday we now celebrate every October was well on its way to becoming what it is now.  After all, without the assistance of knowledge and food from those that were here before us, the numbers of settlers who died from starvation and a general lack of medicine, would’ve skyrocketed.

There is more to it than that however, as is the case with most good stories. This is part of what makes the history of Canadian Thanksgiving so confusing and yet completely fascinating. You see, much of Thanksgiving in Canada, is a combination of the European and American Thanksgiving traditions. When Martin Frosbisher, the man who is believed to have been the first voyager to land a ship on the land we know as Canada, anchored his ships, the traditional British holiday was brought over.  However, with the added gratitude for having actually made it all the way to the America’s after a turbulent and troublesome trip across the Atlantic.

Later on, France sent over extra explorers to settle in the abundant new lands of Canada, and formed their own “Order of Good Cheer”, which gave thanks with many ‘thanksgiving’ type holidays, openly and jovially sharing with their First Nation brothers and sisters. This transformed the holiday even further, combining the French Christian version of harvest season celebrations, with the Native versions.

There were several other landmarks throughout history which further modified the holiday celebrations and customs associated with our present day holiday.   For example, up until the American Revolution, Thanksgiving wasn’t celebrated every year in Canada as it now is.  When the Revolution came, Canada became a hot spot for settlers who remained loyal to the British Crown (Loyalists), and later for those who were aiming to avoid being drafted into military service in the various 19th century wars, all of whom brought their traditions and customs with them.  Even though much of the American version of Thanksgiving also originated in European and Pagan traditions, there were plenty of unique traits that were established when the American Settlers found themselves to be new Canadians.

Following the new Canadian-American-European-Native American Thanksgiving, even more meaning was giving to the day, as Canada experienced its own turbulent periods of war. The Lower Canadian Rebellion, World War I and several other smaller squirmishes, were tough on Canadians from all walks of life, and so when Thanksgiving came around, it became a time to be thankful for the end of these battles.

By 1879, Thanksgiving was still celebrated in late November, as it still is in the USA. It wasn’t until 1957, that the date was officially declared to be the second Monday in October. After that, there were some interesting attempts to combine Thanksgiving with Armistice Day, which didn’t end up working out as well as they had hoped. Eventually, Armistice Day was transformed into Remembrance Day and Thanksgiving was again given the full honor as its own holiday.

Since then, Thanksgiving in Canada has blossomed and grown as all of its cousin holidays have. With Turkey and Duck, Green Bean Casserole, loads of Cranberries, Sweet Potatoes and Pumpkin Pies.  The American influence remains evident in recent changes noticed in the Canadian tradition.  Such American customs associated with the Thanksgiving holiday that are now readily experienced in Canada include Thanksgiving football, and other sporting events, and shopping sales to name a notable few.  There are also plenty of festivals, shows and entertaining events that local Canadians and tourists alike get to enjoy. Some of the more interesting 2012 Canadian fall festivals and events coming up:

  • Cruisefest Antique & Classic Car Show
  • The Festival of Banners
  • The Barrie Film Festival
  • The Fort Fright Carnival of Carnage
  • Thunder Bay Pumpkinfest
  • Oktoberfet in Pembroke
  • The Thanksgiving Harvest Craft Show
  • Chappell Farms Fall Festival

And many more spread across the country.

The heritage, culture, entertainment, food and events are well worth the trip, if you’re considering traveling for into Canada in October. If you’re a local, and you’re looking for a new adventure this harvest season, make sure to check out your local events calendar, or go a little crazy and create your own thanksgiving tradition and event. You could do so by following in the footsteps of others, and volunteering at a soup kitchen, hospital or with a basket brigade. Or you could think of a whole new sport, maybe something with hockey sticks and pumpkins… The only limit is your imagination, and the infinite ways in which you can find to celebrate your gratefulness for life, liberty and the universe in general.

References:

Canadian Thanksgiving – http://gocanada.about.com/od/canadatravelplanner/a/thanksgiving.htm

Martin Frobisher – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Frobisher

Order of Good Cheer – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Order_of_Good_Cheer

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